Rants and raves about burning topics that have caught my attention midweek, be it greedy corporate shenanigans, frustration or joy in regards to the Philly sports teams, a movie, show or DVD that has fired up my imagination, an intriguing personality, or what’s happening in the region. — Lori Hoffman, Associate Editor, Atlantic City Weekly.
It is finally time for the real phase of American Idol to begin. I’ve been observing the early rounds as a total of 125,000 hopefuls were whittled down to the 24 performers whose fortunes are now in the hands of the American public.
Right about now I am missing cranky Simon Cowell. Only veteran panelist Randy Jackson is keeping it real with constructive criticism. Paula Abdul was the original softie on the show, but even she was more levelheaded in her critiques compared to Jennifer “I love you all” Lopez. She is a real marshmallow who doesn’t want to criticize anybody. Come on, J-Lo. This is a talented bunch but they aren’t perfect.
Surprisingly enough, Steven Tyler is nearly as much of a rah-rah fan as Lopez. If you scream when you sing, you have a friend in Tyler. That said some of the screamers are the most talented singers on the male side of the ledger. The 12 gents on display last night are an eclectic bunch, in particular the older singers from the group, the crazy, quirky Paul McDonald, whose offbeat vibe was put to good use singing Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” and sexy teddy bear Casey Abrams, who put a spell on J-Lo and the audience with his terrific rendition of “I Put A Spell On You.”
Randy didn’t say it so I will. Casey was “da bomb.”
Stefano Langone is this year’s “adorable” contestant and unlike last year’s Tim Urban, he can really sing. He nailed Bruno Mars’ romantic “Just The Way You Are.” One of my early favorites, Robbie Rosen, was, as Randy pointed out, “pitchy” during his take on Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel.”
Crazy teen redhead Brett Loewenstern, 16, earned plenty of praise from J-Lo and Steven T. for his version of The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” but I thought it was one of the weakest of the night and Randy said so. Rocker wannabe James Durbin proved he had the chops for the role with his take on “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” delighting Tyler with his offbeat Judas Priest song selection.
Scotty McCreery has already had enough exposure to get a chance to make a country album thanks to his sexy, low voice. He continued his march to CMT stardom with a nice cover of John Michael Montgomery’s “Letter From Home.”
Tim Halperin was another of my early favorites during Beatles week in Las Vegas, but he made a horrible song choice with “Streetcorner Symphony (Come On Over)” by Rob Thomas. The song did nothing to show off his fine voice.
A total failure of a performance was turned in by Jordan Dorsey, who came off as karaoke-ish with “OMG” by Usher. Karaoke DJ Clint Jun Gamboa’s rendition of “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder was a bit too much screaming for my taste but he does have talent. Jovany Barreto’s “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain sounded good if you are working a piano lounge.
Jacob Lusk is a little over-the-top but he can really sing and proved it with an excellent song choice, Luther Vandross’ “A House Is Not A Home.”
My top 12
1) Casey Abrams
2) Stefano Langone
3) James Durbin
4) Paul McDonald
5) Jacob Lusk
6) Scotty McCreery
7) Robbie Rosen
8) Tim Halperin
9) Clint Jun Gamboa
10) Brett Loewenstern
11) Jovany Barreto
12) Jordan Dorsey